[ProgressiveEd] Meeting with Joel Klein and Michele Cahill

Jane Bedell [email protected]
Fri, 11 Apr 2003 10:13:37 -0400

Thanks so much for helping to make all of this happen.  And more thanks for 
getting this report out quickly.  Let the discussions continue!!!
--On Friday, April 11, 2003 9:23 AM -0400 [email protected] wrote:
> Dear folks,
> Congratulations to the PENNY delegation that met with Joel Klein and
> Michele  Cahill yesterday.  You would have been proud of us.  People were
> clear,  passionate, and informed.  We didn't get to ask all of our
> questions, but we  saw this as a first meeting.  Mr. Klein asked that we
> meet with him on a  monthly basis.  He said that these meetings are
> extremely helpful to him.
> Here are some of the things we talked about:  CHOICE:  Parents talked
> about  the reasons why they chose our schools and about the children's
> love of  learning as a result of the way they're taught in our schools.
> They  explained how our schools look at their children as complete
> people.  One  parent explained that she had attended a private school, as
> a child, but was  constantly sick because she couldn't stand going to
> school.  Her mother saw  this and switched her to one of our schools.
> She thrived.  The same  experience happened with her own children.  Joel
> Klein was clearly moved.  We  talked about the diversity of our schools,
> our intake processes, and the  effects of the No Child Left Behind
> legislation.  We talked about the  accessibility to parents of staffs and
> administrations of our schools.  And  we pointed out that many of our
> parents chose our schools precisely because  they reject having their
> children measured by test scores.  Other areas:  We  talked about needing
> passionate, committed teachers and how you develop a  sense of community
> within a school.  We talked about the importance of being  allowed to
> build curriculum, which enables staffs to work together to discuss  and
> develop curriculum.  In this way, our schools exceed the standards.  One
> delegate member showed her own portfolio she did as part of the staff
> development work her school does for each staff member.  Ms. Cahill and
> Mr.  Klein were clearly impressed.  A student spoke about the way her
> school  community brought her in and encouraged her to participate, even
> as it helped  her to learn English.  She talked about the studies she's
> been engaged with  at her school.  Again, very impressive.  We talked
> about ways our schools  assess learning in the service of the child.  We
> talked about the broad lens  through which our schools look at each child.
> Mr. Klein listened first and then spoke.  He asked that we set up monthly
> meetings with him ("regardless of whether or not we agree", he said that
> the  meetings would be important to him).  He said that his job was
> twofold:  to  preserve the many wonderful things that are happening in
> New York schools and  to deal with the need for change in schools that
> are obviously not  functioning well.  He said that the No Child Left
> Behind legislation has to  be dealt with.  (He acknowledged that it was
> serious threat to our schools  and to other schools in New York.)   He
> said that this legislation has a lot  of force and raises an equity
> issue:  Parents needs help to get their  children out of terrible
> situations.  Mr. Klein said that parents' requests  for transfers had to
> be handled centrally.  He said that test scores aren't  the be all and
> end all, but a lot of children are not learning to read.  He  talked
> about looking at test scores longitudinally as one way to deal with  the
> fluctuations in scores.  He said that the core curriculum they selected
> was flexible and progressive (in fact, he said, they'd caught a lot of
> heat  for this).  He said that his focus was to work with principals and
> school by  school coaches to do staff development better.  He said that,
> over time, his  goal was to make schools autonomous.  Then, he said that
> he was less  concerned that his "reforms" would disable us than he was
> that not reforming  the system would allow nonfunctioning schools to
> continue to hurt children.   He said that he knew we were strong and that
> we would find a way to do what  we wanted to do anyway.  Mr. Klein said
> that he saw in the schools that he  visited that we do wonderful work,
> but he said that he also saw room for  improvement.
> Our message to Mr. Klein and Ms. Cahill was that we're not asking for
> exceptionalism for our schools.  We want to be able to continue to do the
> work we've been doing, not at the expense of any other schools.  We think
> that we can be of help in spreading our approach to staff development
> work  and in other areas.  Certainly, all of our schools think long and
> hard about  ways to build our own understandings of children and
> curriculum and about  meaningful parent involvement.  Mr. Klein responded
> very positively to the  suggestion that we do a five-year study, using
> quantitative data (test  scores) and qualitative data (a descriptive
> assessment).  We need to talk  about specifics with him.
> Steering Committee meeting this Monday, April 14, at 6 P.M. at Ann
> Wiener's  house, 310 Riverside Drive, apt. 1007.
> The meeting with Mr. Klein and Ms. Cahill was a good start.  We didn't
> ask  many of the questions we needed to ask.  Please send your questions
> (things  you need to know about) back on the listserv.  These will help
> to guide any  further conversations.  Let me start us off with two
> questions that need  follow up.
> 1.  What is the specific procedure for our academies and programs
> becoming  schools?
> 2.  Where will the staff developers come from?  What kinds of direction
> will  they get and from whom?
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